Thursday, February 28, 2013

Deleted Content: Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney (Spoiler Free)

Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney was released a few months ago in Japan.  As per the norm, an art book was released which revealed that early in development, Phoenix and Layton were to have an evil counterpart.  This was apparently scrapped,

It's interesting to think about their evil counterparts.  What would they be like?  How would they be adapted into the story?

Phoenix already a bit of an evil counterpart in "Furio Tigre" and Layton had one on "Don Paolo" but neither of these were quite a counterpart.  Don Paolo was shown to have some good in him several times while Furio Tigre was more intimidating then a portent of what Phoenix could be.

The idea of an evil counterpart, especially one towards Professor Layton, is rather interesting.  Phoenix has very few faults (to the point he is noted in a few supplementary materials as bland) and Level-5 stated that Layton is just like Phoenix, but with no faults. 

Admittedly, it may be why the designs were scrapped, but it's interesting to think what they could be. Would Evil Layton be a jerk obsessed with coffee? (Though that does sound a lot like Godot) Would Evil Phoenix be motivated for himself rather than his client? Or would he be a prosecutor? 

Shadow archetypes are always a tricky game to play.  Silent Hill tends to play it pretty well, you often have to face your Shadows to move on in the game.  Other times, they tend to fall flat.  I can't name any off the top of my head, but everyone has dealt with a fictional work with their own take on Shadow Archetypes.

So, sadly, these sketches are what can not be.  Which really is a pity, they look gorgeous.  As are the attempts at Miles and Larry, Labyrinth City style, below.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Character Analysis: Lexaeus (and his possible importance in the future plot)

Kingdom Hearts likes to throw curveballs.

For example, the "X" that pops up all over the place?  Actually very critical to the story.

As in, the plot could very well hinge on which people wear an "X".

Which led me to think about one of my favorite Organization members, Lexaeus.
There is something REALLY odd about Lexaeus.  No, nothing obvious but.... there's just all these little things there.

This scene for starters. Vexen is number IV, Lexaeus is V, Zexion is VI.  Vexen claims he ranks higher than Zexion, but shuts up when Lexaeus tells him to stop talking.

There's quite a few little moments like this scattered throughout the series.

When facing Riku, Lexaeus seemed honestly worried about Riku and wanted him to embrace Darkness NOT for power, but for Riku's on sanity and balance.  At the end of the game, Riku ends up doing exactly that.  As the games move forward, Riku continues to use his dark power in order to serve and help others, something Lexaeus said he should do from the beginning.
After Riku and Lexaeus meet for the first time and battle, Ansem:Seeker of Darkness takes over Riku to kill Lexaeus.

In every form of Ansem, (Ansem:SoD, MX, Xemnas, etc)  only two people have been killed by him onscreen.  One is Lexaeus, the other is Master Eraqus.  This is especially interesting for four reasons.  First, Lexaeus started to just walk away.  Ansem:SoD actively sought out the chance to kill him.  At that point, Lexaeus became actively aware of what the Darkness inside Riku WAS, or rather who the darkness was. The second is that MX killed ME as part of a plan to turn Terra to darkness. There appears to be not apart of any immediate plan.  Thirdly, SE added this scene in the updated rerelease. Originally Riku beat Lexaeus, who then released his remaining darkness to overwhelm Riku. This caused Riku to turn into Ansem:SoD.  So not only was this change one of the largest in the updated rerelease, but is very deliberate.

Back to the battle, while Riku wins, he looks utterly exhausted.  He's on the verge of collapsing.  Lexaeus? Lexaeus is simply winded and reveals he has enough power left to swing his heavy axe and knock Riku into the ceiling.  Which leads to the last part about Ansem killing Lexaeus.  Lexaeus was stabbed in either the chest or the stomach.  Something like this defies the previous uses of the keyblade (a channel for magic or as a blunt weapon)   but also shows that Ansem:SoD REALLY wanted to kill him for as yet unknown reasons.  

In Birth By Sleep, we meet Aeleus for the first time.
Unlike every other person there, Aeleus was actively interested in keeping Ven safe.  He was more interested in stopping some random UnVersed then guarding the castle (his job)

Finally in Kingdom Hearts 3D, we see him twice.

 In the first example, he says nothing but he's the second person conscious after he reforms into a person.  You can't really tell from the picture, but in the scene he's trying to push himself back up.

Aeleus spends most of this time, watching, thinking, and being very well aware that if Isa and Braig HAD shown up, they would have been found.  Something Lea and possibly not Ienzo was aware of at that point in time.

I have honestly no idea where I'm going with this.  You can dismiss these little bits individually, something to fill time, to explain, whatever.

But if you ad them up, it's every single time he's appeared on screen, something slightly odd has happened to him/about him/around him.  And Slightly odd things in Kingdom Hearts end up in two categories.  Either they are just something odd, or they become critically important down the line.  (See the X's I mentioned earlier.  Also, costume changes and the constant visits to Traverse Town)

I'm putting Lexaeus into the critically important part.  Especially as his death scene was changed between the GBA and the PS2 release.

Square Enix has made a point of making Lexaeus/Aeleus be consistently odd, but also in the background.  The most up front bit of oddness is him being one of the two people any form of Xehanort has killed, let alone by stabbing.

I have no idea what Aeleus' role will be in the future.  Quite frankly, no one thought too much of the brown robed guy in KH1 until KH3D turned everything on it's head. I'm not going to predict anything about Lexaeus.

Except one bit.  Lexaeus will probably end up being somehow vital to the series.  And we won't see it coming.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Wreck it Ralph worked as a video game movie

Video game based movies tend to be more miss then hit.  While I'll fully admit to loving the Prince of Persia movie (It was honestly pretty good!)  Other ones like Mario fell flat.

It's so bad I can't find a simple clip on youtube.  The whole movie is up there, but I just want a clip.
(This should give you a hint on the movie quality)

However, movies like Tron and Wreck it Ralph have done pretty well. Possibly because they invoke the tropes and well known genres with other aspects going on instead of telling the game.

(This may be why PoP worked well too.  While it drew a lot from the game, it wasn't a remake of the game.  Tron also falls into this category, it uses some tropes and data in order to tell another story entirely.)

Wreck it Ralph succeeds by invoking three well known genres of gaming that would appear in an arcade.

90's Kart style racing

And competitive Shooters:

The concepts in these games are well known, and they concepts are also easy grasp by watching the brief gameplay in the movie.

As a result, the actual game parts are limited to cameos.  Zangeif in Street Fighter, Pacman appearing at the party, Tapper is it's own scene, etc. (More examples here )  By making sure they are cameos, they keep from having the nods from overwhelming the plot which runs on a mix of video game conventions and traditional storytelling of sacrifice and character redemption.  (Actually, they had to put a sacrifice play in place because most games have a respawning attribute.) As a result, we get a movie that USES games to tell a story of treachery and redemption; therefore embraces a wider audience instead of getting bogged down in condensing a 60 hour plot or risking alienating a non gamer audience.

Besides, everyone's played 2 of the 3 styles of games at some point.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Musical Monday: The Wanderer of Darkness (Lost Odyssey)

Lost Odyssey is the unofficial sequel to Final Fantasy.  It's filled with Magitek, family, love, and villains you just want to smash as they attempt to destroy the world.

In other words, it's a very good (and very long) game.  So, I'm slowly working my way through the game.  I'm on disk 3. 

This will take a while.

But, I encourage YOU to play it!  It's a great game that has held up well, and is one of the few RPG's on the Xbox.  So, if you have one and want to expand your collection, pick it up.

Friday, February 22, 2013

How Kingdom Hearts 3D showed Religion in a great, and subtle, way.

I don't know why, but games shy away from using crosses in games.  I can see if someone was using to use a cross to impale people... yes.  That's offensive.  But using it in it's proper context or as an easy way to mark a grave isn't offensive at all.  (And I'm saying that as a Catholic)

Now, in Kingdom Hearts 3D, one of the worlds you can visit is "Les Cities de Cloches" aka "City of the Bells" or Hunchback of Notre Dame.

This world:
For various (and should be understandable) reasons, Disney modified the original novel into the movie.  (Such as making Frollo a judge instead of a priest, and having a lot of people live at the end, along with various edits for time since the novel is massive and animating is a very time intensive process)

But they did keep most of the religious imagery in, it's called "Hunchback of NOtre Dame" for a reason.

Now, Kingdom Hearts 3D takes the story and... shortens it even more.  Almost all of the religious imagery was stripped, characters vanished, and Frollo became much less conflicted (Okay, Okay, I know it's space reasons and Kingdom Hearts always does the abreviated versions... but the movie and book are very complex and deserve a bit more discussion!)

Which means I was very happy when I noticed this: (yes, I took the picture myself)
It's not the best picture, but it's a carved picture  of  "Jesus' Ascension into Heaven" which, while not a cross, is a very important theologically.  It's also behind a wooden altar in the Cathedral... and you can't step on the altar (I tried in order to get a better picture.  It made me quite happy when I couldn't.)

Okay, Okay, theology time.

At the end of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Luke, they both spend a bit of time talking about what happened AFTER Jesus rose from the dead.  After 40 days past, Jesus took the disciples up to a hill, gave one final speech, the rose up into the clouds and disappeared.  After the Apostles spent some time looking up after him, Angels showed up and basically told them to leave.

I'm horribly simplifying it, but the main part is, this is a KEY part of Christianity.

And while there is no cross in the game, there is a Nave, and in that Nave, right where the Crucifix and the Monstrance should be, there is a wooden Altar and a carving of Jesus being assumed into Heaven.

All this Catholic Symbolism, without it being actually said.  It's brilliant.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Playstation 4 announced

This may end up taking a while.

So, the PS4 was officially announced, after weeks of rumors.

The system seems to focus more on social network and immediacy (aside from a more PC structure)

There were a few games announced, but they are probably saving the  big guns for E3.  They need enough information to tease the reviewers.

Honestly... some of it seems really creepy to me.  the whole streaming and instant share will probably be used a lot by other people, but having someone else take over your controller to help long distance?  Honestly creepy.  Also Creepy?  Having the PS4 analyze your game purchases and then predownload games for you to play. (They did not mention if you or the PS4 would actively purchase them)

And then they did imply they might do away with disks which is a problem for some people. On the other hand, they will allow used games so probably not.

Information is still trickling out, so I don't actually have much to say.  Share looks like an interesting feature, depending on how it's used, I'll need to feel the controller before I decide on that, graphics are nice, but they've never been a selling point for me, I wasn't really sold on any of the games they had but they have to be holding back the big guns for later.

I guess, over all, it was kind of Meh.  And with no actual PS4 or Price point, I'm really not sure where to go from here.

I'll keep on ruminating as information comes out.  E3 will have more information. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Curse you Sony event,

I thought the darn thing was earlier today.

In case you don't know, Sony is doing... something later today.

And, to be honest, it's looking pretty likely that Sony is ready to announce the PS4. 

Ignoring the rumors that have been flying around:

Sony has started putting up youtube videos about their previous systems.
IGN has leaked what may be the prototype controller

and Kotaku also has some information about the system.

To top it all of,

Do you remember "The Last Guardian"?
The main developer recently came out to say that while the game is STILL being worked on, it's up to Sony to release more information.

Which does hint to being on a Next Gen system.  (While Beyond Good and Evil 2 has also been confirmed for a Next Gen system, Ubisoft has talked about it in that way for a while.  This is the first time something like this has been said about TLG and only a week before the PlayStation event.)

With that being said, I don't really want there to be a new system right now.  The PS3 still more than does it's job, it looks amazing, and I really don't get the need to share every game achievement.  In addition, some rumors state that the PS4 will keep you from playing second hand games and to use online features you'll have to have a paying account.  ((AKA, if you want to play CoD multiplayer, you may need a PlayStation Plus account) 

I REALLY hate those ideas.  Movies can be shared and sold with no one complaining, and you don't need to pay Penguin Books to host a book club. 

But we won't know what is happening until tonight at 6PM Eastern.

So, let's spend the day preparing and drinking tea.  I wonder what will be announced?  (And if it IS the PS4, which games?)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fridging Women, part 1 (AKA what is Fridging? and why is it problematic?)

Oh, Fridging.  Oh, Sweet Cosmos Fridging.

Welcome to what is easily one of the most controversial ideas in "Gender Politics in Fridging."

Let's define some terms.

"Fridging" (Short for "Women in Refrigerators") Refers to an act where the villain kills, maims, depowers, or rapes someone close to the hero in order to break the hero's spirit and attempt to make the hero chase him.

It comes from a "Green Lantern" comic (1994) where Hal Jordan comes home to find his girlfriend killed by one of his villains, possibly dismembered, and stuffed into a fridge.

Gail Simone, a well respected writer for DC comics, read it and realized there was a very large pattern here, so she began to pull together a list of women in comics who are killed/maimed, etc by the villains in order to manipulate the male heroes.  (While it can happen to male heroes, they tend to come back with stronger powers.  Females tend to stay dead) 

One of the earliest examples in Comics is...

Gwen Stacy.
And there is really a long list, and it happens in all media, including video games.
Her death serves no purpose in the over game narrative OTHER then to motivate the characters (especially Cloud) in addition, it was not a self sacrifice (even if she did know that she would probably die) and she did not put up a fight.  It... happened.

And why is this problematic?  It turns a female character (who - as a character- should be fully fleshed out with her own ideas, dreams, skills, and emotional and character arc)  into someone who exists solely for the male character's arc. They exist only to propel the main character forward.  We don't know if Aerith wanted to be a teacher or a scientist, or a mom.  And even if we did find (Like we probably did with Gwen, I haven't read her comics) the simple act that she was killed off to promote Spider-man's arc NEGATES any dreams she may have had because she did not die on her own terms or for her own arc.  It was all for Spider-man's. 

Start looking over your old games.  See who dies and why.  Is it to promote their own story? Or someone else's? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Musical Monday: Sly's Tango

I bought my brother Sly Cooper 4 a few weeks ago.  It's EXACTLY how a Sly game should be, so it's good.

And, while I heard some good music in the game,
So I'll just pass along to one of the best sequences from the second game.

Sly 2's Tango.
 A well done Tango set to fantastic music.  I really wish this would come back.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Warhammer 40K, Space Marines, and everything inbetween

Ah, Space marines.  What would the Sci Fi genre be without you.

Well, Warhammer 40K wants to find out!

Warhammer 40K recently filed a motion to say that they have copywrited the term "Space Marine"  which has massive ramifications for the Science Fiction universe, IF it goes through. They tried to take down a book called "Spots the Space Marine" and had the e-book version removed from Amazon, It has since been returned

A space marine is a staple of the Sci Fi Genre.  They are highly qualified military units who work on planets.  They've been around since at least the 1930's.

However, Warhammer 40K is claiming they own at the very least the word.The word in question has been in existence since at least the 1930's with the story "Captain Brink of the Space Marine."  and it's become a generalized term throughout time, which exempts it from copyright.

On the other hand, Warhammer 40K DOES own a copyright, but it's only for the pieces and other times related to how to play Warhammer 40K  Not for the generic term itself.

IF Warhammer believed that "Spots the Space Marine" was used as an infringement they are perfectly valid in their attempt to go after it.

However, it does not seem to be the case. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day, take 2!

Last time I talked about The Prince and Elika

This time I want to talk about

Aqua/Zack from Kingdom Hearts
While the Prince and Elika had an entire game to bond (if out of order)  Aqua and Zack are only together for one jaunt through a world.

But Sweet Cosmos does it make an impression.

Let's look at a few of the incidents:
Zack is incredibly cheerful, and while he's not afraid to fight Aqua, he also wants to protect her.
Aqua is very much okay with fighting boys, but knows Zack can't handle an ice giant so she has him stop.

Zack has one of his most famous interactions in Final Fantasy with her:
He's also one of two people to touch Aqua throughout the entire game (via cutscene).  The only other time is when Terranort lifts her up by the neck in an attempt to kill her. 

Aqua is noted to blush when Zack leaves (though the graphics didn't show it.)  and she also covers her heart while she's shown to be embarrassed.  She's not shown to be embarrassed in front of any other character.  The only other time she's shown to cover her heart is in the opening when a (possibly) corrupted Terra walks by her.

And then there's their goals.  Zack wants to be a hero in order to protect people, as does Aqua.  They both train to do it.  But while Aqua gets to actually go out and do it, it's for more selfish reasons then Zack's.  She's going because she's ordered and she saves the worlds semi accidentally as she tries to find her friends.  Zack may not have left yet, but when he does he will do it with no ulterior motives.  (With that being said, Aqua's motives are pretty pure all in all, and none  of the Trio left to save the world)

Unfortunately, as Birth By Sleep is one of the most recently released Kingdom Hearts games, Zack does not show up in the earlier ones since Birth By Sleep takes place ten years before Kingdom Hearts 1 takes place.  So, we don't know what happened to him.  The credits imply that Sephiroth may be responsible for his disappearance.  However, as Aqua has disappeared too (and Terra, and Ven) I hold he's doing what he always wanted to do.

He's out, being a hero and searching for them. 

(And by that, I mean Hades threw him into the Realm of Darkness when Zack started asking questions so he's currently living there with Aqua until Kingdom Hearts 3.) 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

System Shock 2

I started to write about the Space Marine/Warhammer 40K controversy.

Then this article appeared today. 

GOG has FINALLY got the distribution rights to System Shock 2!  Long cited as one of the scariest and most progressive of the FPS genre, it has long been impossible to get unless you keep an old computer and are willing to shell out the money (According to Amazon, it can cost as much as $300 new.)

The reason why it's been so hard to get a hold of (apparently) for a digital or physical rerelease is because of how the rights were divided up.  EA held the gameplay rights while a now defunct company held the name rights.  (The rights were transferred to an insurance company when that happened)  At the very least, that's the short version.  I would love to read the long version. (And I have heard it both ways.  In either way, the rights were split between EA and the now defunct company)

Then, in October of last year, GOG started to work on the digital license.  The process had actually started LONG before then, with GOG and it's related parties tracking down who held which rights. IP, gameplay, the original code...  GOG figured it all out and tracked down each party.  October started the full negotiations and starting tomorrow, the game will be able to be purchased for 9.99.

This is a fantastic coup.  The game is (apparently) the standard to judge the other games, it's given GOG a tremendous power in the digital market, and it's proven they listen to their customers.   While they have kept a list of requested games and features that people can vote on, only some manage to fully make their way out the list.  This is due to a number of reasons, in some cases it is not feasible to release games because ALL the rights holders are defunct.  Other times, the programming used is no longer compatible with current systems and GOG can't preform the necessary upgrades.  Other times, the companies just don't want to give the game up for digital distribution, or the rights for the games have disappeared from the said company.

But for GOG to do this, to pull off System Shock 2 AND make it playable for modern audiences?  It's cemented it's place as a premier digital distributor with games, made it a serious competitor for Steam (as Steam- as of yet- has not stated they are also getting this game.  Meaning you can only buy it on GOG.)  and it can cause people to peruse the other games in it's catalog which can bring in more money, money which GOG deserves because they have several games not available elsewhere, and you don't get the bonuses via Steam. 

So, as someone who adores GOG and has bought several games from them, please go and buy the game when it comes out, and several others that tickle your fancy.

Now, I have a copy of Syberia waiting when I finish plaything through Psychonauts.  I should probably go beat that. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Character Design: Marluxia

Marluxia, the (sort of) first Big Bad of the Organization.  (Although, the Final Mixes throw a boss battle with Xemnas in KH1)

He is also a localizer's nightmare.  He's got a giant pink scythe, a flower motif, and his frightening motif is based dramatically more in Japanese ideas then American ideas with no real way to explain them in text.

Marluxia is based on the ideas of Shinigami, the Japanese version of the Grim Reaper.  However, the idea of the Grim Reaper didn't make it to Japan until around the 1800's (by which time the European and American ideas of the Grim Reaper were already firmly established)  the Japanese ideas of Shinigami tend to be a bit... wide ranging.

The World Ends With You Shinigamis (they are called Reapers in the localization)  are completely different from the Bleach Shinigamis which are, in turn, different from Death Note

Examples: The World Ends With You:
Generic Reaper: 

Bleach Shinigami:

Death Note 

The flowers, on the other hand, are Cherry Blossoms.  In Japanese mythology, Cherry Blossoms are connected with the fleetingness of life.  So those flowers that accompany him everywhere? It's him saying "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE."

These subconscious cues are very important.   These should be our ways to let the player know his motif and powers.

And, in cases like this, normally there would be text inserted to explain the powers.  Unfortunately, there was no space to do it with Chain of Memories, so these cues are lost on non Japanese audiences. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Musical Monday: I Want You Gone

Going over my musical monday posts, I realized I had NEVER put on a Portal song.

That has now changed.

Why did I pick this one over Still Alive?

Because when Johnathan Coultrain wrote "Still Alive" he didn't realize exactly how well Ellen McClain could sing.

As in: this is her singing Opera
(Okay, fine, modulated since it's the turrets singing it, but it's still her voice!)

When Portal 2 came around and he was hired again, he used this knowledge to write both Cara Mia and I Want You Gone.   He made them more challenging and complex in order to fit her skills as a singer.

Okay, fine... here's Still Alive

edit: Excuse the delay.  The queue did not work as I had hoped.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I need new games to talk about

In case you haven't noticed, I've talked about some games over and over.  I need people to suggest new games to me.

I WILL play Infamous and InFamous 2, so no worries there.

While I can play any rated game, I can only  play M games frequently on my 3DS or PSP.  So, keep that in mind when you are suggesting games. (I have a young brother.  We don't exactly want him watching the God of War cutscenes) (I did play Bioshock on my PS3, that took some time to get through since I could only play it late at night.)

I have promised to write an article about the licensing issues over "Space Marine" 

I will (eventually) finish Alan Wake and Lost Odyssey.  I just need to get them out of the library, again.   

All games must be easy for me to access.  GOG, Library, Gamestop, Virtual Console, PSN, XBL, etc.  They must also need to be reasonably cheap.  I don't have a lot of money. 

Please drop your ideas over the weekend.  I'll pick them up as soon as possible. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Character Design: Or what makes Splicers and Little Sisters so Creepy

In case you haven't figured it out, Bioshock is one of my favorite games.  My love started after reading an article about how Bioshock started as a look at Objectivism and Ayn Rynd in a self contained area.  Starting off in such an analytical way, we can then look at the rest of the game through both that lens and others.

Like, what exactly makes the Little Sisters and the Splicers so creepy.

 The answer is very simple:

Because while they are obviously no longer human, they are still very human.  When we listen to the splicers ramble, we can hear how they are scared.  How they want fame, or money.  We see them wearing clothes, trying not to be killed, and being honestly worried about how they and everyone else are living.  Little Sisters skip around, play, and recite nursery rhymes as they pull ADAM from corpses.

In other words, they are non visual invocations of the Uncanny Valley. 

What is the Uncanny Valley, you may ask?

Basically, the closer something non realistic gets to being realistic, the more unintentionally creepy it will turn out to be.  Our faces and bodies make so many little movements that we subconciously pick up on, when something looks very human but lacks the little movements, we regard it (mentally) as being creepy and wrong.   This is why Pixar usually uses inhuman creatures for their storytelling, and when they do use humans it's very stylized.  They need to keep from invoking the uncanny valley.

Data on Star Trek, is another deliberate invocation, but he was played by a human.  Tom Hanks in "the Polar Express" is a non deliberate invocation.  C3P0 deliberately misses the valley entirely. 

(I can't find anything on C-3P0)

 While the Splicers and the Little Sisters do not look very human (especially the Splicers) they do ACT like very aggresive humans or very innocent humans.

As humans, we can see ourselves  and our friends in the splicers and we can see siblings, cousins, the children of friends, etc. in the Little Sisters.

And this is what invokes a behavioral and vocal uncanny valley.  The Little Sisters act just like our own little ones.  They hold on tight, they sing, they play, it's just the fact that they drain blood from corpses while they have glowing yellow eyes that mark them as inhuman.

We can see how much of it is accurate.  We can hear our screaming matches with family and friends, we see our greediness, our vanity, when we're terrified.  We just can't shoot fire, and their outside is as ugly as our inside can be.

And THAT is Bioshock's uncanny valley.  It's not the lack of breathing, or the fish that accidentally swim through the ceiling.

It's how the player knows that they are being stalked by their internal demons, and maybe kill their inner child. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bechdel Test part 2

Now, to follow up on Yesterday, you may be asking WHY this is so important.   Why should we care Catwoman and Poison Ivy are discussing plants?  Why does it matter that Terra throws a small fit asking Celes what love is and how Terra wants to know now?  How does it advance the story with all of the Femshep and Liara conversations in Mass Effect?

It's actually pretty freaking big.

Traditionally, if women are put into any media, it is to fill a "Token Female/romance" sub plot.  Women, in works written by men- which is most of it- they are only there to look pretty, fall in love, and to defuse accusations of sexism.

Now, that's not ALWAYS the case.  As I stated yesterday, this obviously does not apply to lesbian porn and there are great works where the use of women would be in congruent to the setting,

But, women are fully fleshed out people and pigeonholing this into the role of love interest (and that's it) opens up some VERY unpleasant implications.

That's why we need these as guidelines.  It is rare to see more then one women in the main group of anything. (The Avengers had three -one was a romantic interest but had other traits outside of it. The other two did not present romantic inclinations towards anyone- but none of them talked to each other) 

Men are allowed to talk to each other about issues other then women.  Heck, it's practically guaranteed that there will be more then one man in anything.  They will hold positions of power, they will be complex, multifaceted, and they will occasionally show emotions. 

The token girl will usually be a girlfriend, if we're lucky we'll also get a mother figure. But if those two talk, then it will automatically about the main male character.  It won't be about the girlfriend's job, or how they like to cook, the trip she took to Italy, or how she recently won the Pulitzer. 

Think about it?  While the number has gone up dramatically recently, it's still no where near enough what it needs to be.  For every episode of Once Upon a Time (Where there are about twice as many regular or reoccurring female characters to male characters and NONE are limited to just the girlfriend role.)  We also have a superbowl commercial for Audi that turns a teenage girl into something to fight over and celebrate when you get a black eye.
(Please don't click it, I don't want them to get the hits)

Women can not be reduced to motherhood, part of our function is to give life.  But they can be reduced to being one dimension, to only supporting a man, or to be property for the man to fight over.

The Bechdel test is just a stop gap.  But it's something that needs to be more present in games.  We need fully fleshed out female characters to help make this world, what ever world it is in the game, to feel fuller and more connected. The easiest way to do this is to have more then one main female character and have them talk about something other then the lead man.

Having a women take the place of the lead man and having her talk to other women about other things would be even better at times.

I'm not saying women should be every position in a game. That's just as bad.    But when what makes a game pass the Bechdel test is having a 30 second conversation about PLANTS, then something is up.  Something that drastically needs to be fixed. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is really more of a guideline, but it is quite important.    The rules are exactly as stated.  There are some alterations (some rules require the women to be named.  Others refuse men to be mentioned even in the abstract)  but as guidelines they are vital.

Why am I saying guidelines?  Because Lesbian porn automatically qualifies and (keeping with the movie theme) Movies that take place in World War II men's prison camps do not.  For example, Stahlag 17.  A BRILLIANT movie about a captured American soldier who is trying to find the German spy in his bunk area.  While Women appear, it is for a few comedy routines and are seen through a telescope. 

While games are a bit MORE likely to fit in the rules, it is still a bit hard to accomplish.

Final Fantasies?  Generally they accomplish it.  There are traditionally 3 female characters and with the saving of the world being something on the forefront of people's minds, they talk about getting it done. The most obvious examples are Fang and Vanille talking, since they talk a lot.  InFamous 2 has Kuo and Nix, and while they often talk about Cole, the also discuss powers and how to react to situations.  And when Shanoa takes the lead with Castlevania, she talks to all sorts of people about many different things, Dracula and her brother being just two options.

But, that's just three options.  Sly Cooper?  Nothing.  There's only one main Female Character (Carmelita Fox) and she's not playable until this game.  As it stands now, I don't know if she will talk to any of the female characters and - while she is quite devoted to the law- her arc also revolves around Sly Cooper himself. 

Kingdom Hearts 2 does have Selphie and Kairi talk to eachother briefly, but they only talk about Sora and Riku.  All other female characters do not cross paths with eachother, or if they do, they don't talk to eachother.

While Peach has her own Arcs in the Mario RPG series, independent of Mario and the other male characters, she generally does not talk to other female characters. 

This will need more research, but the next time you play, keep an eye out for this.  The standards are low, but how many pass does say a lot. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Musical Monday- Maria and Draco (Distant World version)

For the early Final Fantasies, what they lacked in processing power they made up in creativity and silliness.

For example, in the middle of Final Fantsay VI you have to act in a full 12 minutes opera on  the SNES until a purple octopus tries to get revenge by dropping an anvil on you.

No, I'm not joking.

As it was on the SNES, it was revolutionary and amazing for the time, but everyone has at least some idea what an opera should sound like, so there was always the knowledge that - as amazing as this scene is- it fell flat. 

Several years ago, Nobou Uemetsu started a traveling orchestra. He recomposed the songs so they could be played with a full orchestra and we could finally get a sense of what he was trying to make all those years ago.

"Maria and Draco" is ripe for that kind of remake.  It had a few lines added to finish up the opera (in the original version, all the actors are knocked out and Locke adlibs until Setzer interrupts the performance) and we get a beautiful, operatic, video game music and how it should have been played all those years ago. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why new ideas, people, games, and platforms are always needed.

Do you watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic?
The show is well respected, known for crossing age and demographic lines, is lauded for it's fleshed out all female cast, and would not exist if Hasbro didn't decide to start a TV channel. 

When you start a TV channel, you have two options.  Make wildly original shows or show repeats.  MLP fell into the "Original Shows" Category and has been a boon for Hasbro and it's marketing department. 

The same idea applies to games.

Valve is releasing the steambox

The PS4 is speculated to be announced on February 20th. 

The Xbox 720 may be announced before then.

Everytime something new comes out, there are the two instincts.  Do something new, and do something old.  Mario and Pokemon WILL sell systems.  That is without a doubt.  So will  Nathan Drake.  Sly Cooper still has buying power.  Infamous might, but the way Infamous 2 ended who knows if it can go on to Infamous 3 with Cole.

As for Valve, Valve has Half Life 3/Half Life 2 episode 3.  That is their ace in the hole.  No matter what, people will buy the steambox to play this game.  It's not going to be on GOG.  No one really sells PC boxed games anymore, not when Valve made Digital Download so easy.  If Half Life 3 comes preloaded and several months before it's released to the public on steam?   Sweet Celestia, the sales would be enormous.  People would buy it anyway, but that would push people on the edge over the edge. 

People always crave the new and the familiar.  The familiar can help them grasp something easier.  It's why Mario and Luigi are used to sell Nintendo systems.  People know how they work.  People know they will be good games, or at the very least pretty decent. 

People also crave the new.  They have something in front of them, they want to know what it can do!

And that fresh blood is always critical.  New creators give fresh ideas. Portal is a very original puzzle game.  It started because Valve hired some new and forward thinking college students.  They got a new, popular, and reasonably all ages series out of it. 

If people and games just retread the same paths, they become stale.  Others retread but mix it up to become more interesting.  That doesn't always work out (I'm looking at you, Sonic Unleashed. Day parts were good, fun, and typical.  Night parts... interesting but not as much fun) 

But is important is that games try and learn.  It's why Journey, Flower, and Shadow of the Colossus are well regarding, because they are unique.  They take ideas and concepts that shouldn't work, and do. 

It's also why Final Fantasy is having difficulty.  They are trying very hard to change and keep their formula, but it is having trouble gelling.  Fresh blood must come into Square Enix.

Then again, with a fresh system (A bit of Fresh Blood on it's own) we get The World Ends With You which is one of the most original and FANTASTIC games I've played.

Everything needs a new idea, a new system, so new blood.  It gets creative juices flowing, allows old ideas to become fully fleshed out and realized, and let's people resee classics in a new light. 

To the Steambox, WiiU, PS4 and Xbox 720 (or whatever you'll be called) !  May we have fresh games and wonderful ideas to look forward to in the future.